Sheffield United are challenged to go on another "incredible journey" rather than wallow in self-pity

Sheffield United have been challenged to ensure their relegation from the Premier League proves the catalyst for another period of prolonged success rather than the end of an era.

By James Shield
Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 6:00 am

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game against Brighton and Hove Albion, United’s first outing since their demotion was mathematically confirmed, caretaker Paul Heckingbottom reminded that the loss of its top-flight status need not prove disastrous for a club which was in the third tier of English football on;y five years ago.

Placed in temporary charge when Chris Wilder, the manager responsible for twice leading United to promotion left his position at Bramall Lane, Heckingbottom said: “This club has been on an incredible journey, and that journey started in League One.

“Now we’re going back into the Championship. So although there’s a lot of hurt about that, it’s also important to remember that puts the club on a much stronger footing than when Chris first came in - both in a footballing sense and financially as well.

Paul Heckingbottom has addressed Sheffield United's squad following their relegation from the Premier League: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

“The challenge now is to make sure we go on another incredible journey. It will be a different one, but that’s got to be the aim. Whoever stays here has got to try and make sure that this is just a set-back, and that they bounce back even stronger from it. Because that is possible. It can and it does happen.”

Heckingbottom has cited Norwich City, who returned to the PL at the first attempt last weekend, as an example of how the right strategies and mindset can help teams quickly recover from the pain of going down.

Promoted from the Championship alongside United in 2019, City finished bottom of the table 11 months later after losing all of their final 10 games. But they have since bounced back at the first attempt - securing promotion on the same day as United’s membership of England’s most prestigious sporting competition was revoked.

“The challenge is to make sure this is the start of something,” Heckingbottom said. “Not the end. You get set-backs in football, as you do in life. It’s how you bounce back from those, how you respond, that counts.”

Paul Heckingbottom, temporary manager of Sheffield United, during the Premier League match at Molineux, Wolverhampton: Darren Staples/ Sportimage

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Sheffield United's players have been challenged to bounce straight back: Andrew Yates / Sportimage